September 17, 2015

At war

Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015). A tense, dark and gripping contemporary war film that is reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty – What is legal? What is illegal? What, in the end, does it matter? – set on, above and below the US-Mexican border where a shadowy group of law enforcers fights a vast and unwinnable war against brutal drug cartels. As in the Bigelow film, a woman (Emily Blunt) is our guide and troubled conscience in a morally confusing world. Blunt was too good, too serious for the risible Tom Cruise actioner The Edge of Tomorrow; here, she is powerful and sympathetic as FBI agent Kate Macer and both Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are excellent as the most enigmatic and cynical of the unofficial war on drugs/black ops team. With the invaluable assistance of cinematographer Roger Deakins, Villeneuve turns Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay into a strongly visual story and amplifies a sense that this is just one small part of a much larger picture (it’s the flip side of Traffic). Following Incendies, Prisoners and Enemy, Villeneuve shows that he is becoming a master of generating and sustaining ambient fear, even if the material has not always been equal to the mood. A Blade Runner sequel is next.